Colorado cops fired over photos of choke­hold used on Black man

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION/WORLD - BY PATTY NIEBERG AND THOMAS PEIPERT

AURORA, Colo. — Three of­fi­cers were fired Fri­day over photos show­ing po­lice reen­act a choke­hold used on Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died last year af­ter po­lice stopped him on the street in a Den­ver sub­urb.

One of those fired is Ja­son Rosen­blatt, a white Aurora of­fi­cer who helped stop McClain in Au­gust for wear­ing a ski mask and “be­ing sus­pi­cious.” Po­lice put McClain in a choke­hold, paramedics in­jected him with a seda­tive and McClain suf­fered car­diac ar­rest be­fore later be­ing taken off life sup­port.

Aurora In­terim Po­lice Chief Vanessa Wilson told re­porters that of­fi­cers sent the photos to Rosen­blatt and oth­ers two months af­ter McClain died to “cheer up a friend,” without ex­plain­ing who that was. Rosen­blatt re­sponded with a text say­ing, “Haha.” Of­fi­cer Nathan Wood­yard, who put McClain in a choke­hold, also got the photos but he was not dis­ci­plined be­cause he didn’t re­spond.

“We are ashamed, we are sick­ened, and we are an­gry,” Wilson said. The of­fi­cers may not have com­mit­ted a crime, but the pho­to­graphs are “a crime against hu­man­ity and de­cency,” she added.

McClain’s fam­ily, friends and com­mu­nity ac­tivists noted dur­ing a rally that jus­tice was swifter for the mock­ing pho­to­graph than the use of force that led to McClain’s death. The two other of­fi­cers who stopped the young man are still on the force as au­thor­i­ties look again into pos­si­ble crim­i­nal charges af­ter clear­ing them last year.

“Rosen­blatt got fired not for killing Elijah, not for mur­der­ing Elijah, but for mak­ing fun of Elijah,” said Ter­rence Roberts, a com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer and fam­ily friend.

Of­fi­cers Kyle Dit­trich, Erica Mar­rero and Jaron Jones — none of whom con­fronted McClain in Au­gust — smiled and mock­ingly placed each other in a choke­hold in the photos taken in Oc­to­ber near a me­mo­rial for McClain.

An of­fi­cer re­ported the photos to a sergeant late last month.

Rosen­blatt, Dit­trich and Mar­rero were fired for con­duct un­be­com­ing of an of­fi­cer. Jones re­signed ear­lier this week.

The Aurora Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion called the in­ves­ti­ga­tion “a rush to judg­ment.”

The of­fi­cers stopped McClain, a mas­sage ther­a­pist, af­ter a 911 call on Aug. 24 re­ported him as sus­pi­cious be­cause he was wear­ing a ski mask and flail­ing his arms. He begged them re­peat­edly to let go of him, at one point say­ing “you guys started to ar­rest me, and I was stop­ping my mu­sic to lis­ten,” ac­cord­ing to body-cam­era video.

Af­ter the choke­hold that cut off blood to his brain, paramedics ad­min­is­tered 500 mil­ligrams of a seda­tive to calm him down.

A pros­e­cu­tor said he didn’t pur­sue crim­i­nal charges against the of­fi­cers be­cause a pathol­o­gist wasn’t able to de­ter­mine if their ac­tions caused McClain’s death.

AURORA PO­LICE DE­PART­MENT VIA AP

This photo shows Aurora (Colorado) Po­lice De­part­ment Of­fi­cers Erica Mar­rero (from left), Jaron Jones and Kyle Dit­trich. Ja­son Rosen­blatt, one of three white of­fi­cers who stopped Elijah McClain, has been fired af­ter re­spond­ing to photos show­ing col­leagues reen­act­ing the choke­hold used on the Black man.

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